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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
In recounting this eco-odyssey through Southeast Asia, Sy Montgomery combines a poet's keen eye for observation with the intrepid spirit of a Victorian-era explorer. She travels through Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand with an affable biology professor and an array of local officials, guides, and interpreters, joining a search for "what could be the first new bear species to be reported in over a century." Sightings and rumors from isolated border regions had spoken of a blond bear, which might represent an addition to the planet's eight known species -- or an exotic variation on a more familiar theme. Braving rickety airplanes, army ants, and mystery illnesses, Montgomery journeys through a region of tremendous beauty that is under severe strain from human activities.
Disquisitions on the mythical manifestations of bears; the disturbing surge in international wildlife trafficking; and the customs of Thai hill tribes add flavor and context to the story. And while Montgomery is disturbed by certain practices -- like the amputation of bear paws for the cookpot -- she tries to place them within the context of differing cultural beliefs. Her wise, witty, and humane account is equally concerned with people, and their responses to the landscapes and creatures around them. And while there are plenty of books about searching for vanishing or unknown species in the world's last wild places, the quality of Montgomery's writing sets this one apart. Jonathan Cook